Build your analytics Agartha

Tuesday, 3 April 2018


Analytics is everywhere and we can learn from looking with the widest aperture, perhaps in the unlikeliest places, and bring examples home from around the world. The mythical city of Agartha built its wealth by learning from civilisations that others didn't even believe existed, let alone had something to offer the sophisticates of Ancient Greece.

I've been working in a few different countries this year; US, UK, Brazil, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Morocco, India, Italy, Netherlands. In every country I've seen fantastic, and sometimes surprising, leading-edge Analytics examples. Its been a wake-up call; if the best examples of IoT in practice I've seen are in Kenya, one wonders about the missed opportunities right in front of us?

In Brazil, a gas station client is using machine learning to read geo-tagged photographs to create a daily map of competitive pricing. A small group of reps take photographs of competitor sites, and it's relatively easy for ML to recognise "this is a gas station sign", know the colours of the brand, and read the price on the sign. They use a gravity modelling approach from the geo-tagged competitor price map to calculate their own optimal pricing, which is automatically communicated to their gas stations.

A Brazilian retail client scrapes prices continuously from competitor websites, performs a set of price elasticity calculations, and changes their prices hourly in response. São Paulo is one of the few cities in the world where it's perfectly normal to have a helipad on your hotel roof and where your Uber ride is an ACH130 helicopter.

In Kenya, another gas station client uses IoT with sensors on gas station tanks that inform automated delivery orders. As it happens, they've also automated the replenishment of the c-store, and the collection of garbage.

Working with our technology partner in India I saw a million SKU models with more than a billion observations for a big box DIY retailer used for price optimisation, promotion, and SKU rationalisation. Most interestingly though is that the model not only looked at transaction data but brought in other signals such as web-scaling of competitive data and "search terms" data. A week in Bangalore, just to overhear the analytics chat in the restaurants, is an education in itself.

In Morocco, we work with a client who buys their advertising programmatically against their own 1st party data. An interesting learning opportunity ahead of a GDPR world threatening the viability of 3rd party data?

The Ivory Coast has some inspiring examples of technology empowered start-ups using analytics, for example TaxiJet, an Abidjan alternative to Uber, with all the benefits of second mover advantage.

I was in New York chatting with a group of ad agency bigwigs and their clients; a global CPG company is building a database of everyone in the world, and integrating their category purchasing behaviour and all of their media consumption patterns. Note the use of the words "everyone" and "all".

In Amsterdam our local partner works with public transportation authorities and re-modelled data, looking at where and when journeys started and finished (not where the peaks happened) to create a modified fare structure to flatten out traffic surges.

Milan, home to Dal Bolognese, one of my favourite restaurants, has some fantastic analytics examples. Over dinner, an Italian banker told me about Data AoS provisions to new customers, that they demand (in a world of data portability) their full data history from their old bank. Suddenly all that financial transaction data isn't yours, it's the customer's, and they're telling you to share it with your arch competitor. These are some of the silver linings to GDPR and PSD2 we previously wrote about. 

Agartha is a mythical city of ancient Greece where residents believed the earth is hollow and inhabited by exotic peoples, whole cities, and even entire civilizations. Looking beneath their very feet from this secret well of learning, Agartha was a place of great wealth and wisdom. As I travel and meet with my clients around the world, I have discovered our very own Agartha for analytics. I've had a 30 year career in Analytics, and it's gratifying to see data and analytics making real differences to business in every corner of the world. Wherever you look you can take inspiration to bring home.

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